Backers say senator could thwart Pollard release effort

It contains what it says is the text of the letter sent in January 1999 to President Bill Clinton by Lieberman and some 60 other senators, expressing "our strongest opposition to any commutation of the life sentence given Jonathan Pollard for betraying our country. We urge you to deny clemency in the interest of justice and in the interest of national security."

The Web page also includes the accusation leveled by Pollard activists that Lieberman is serving as "a willing tool of the CIA."

"The best chances for getting him released will be between November, after the election, and January," before the inauguration of the new president, said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Hoenlein argued that Clinton would be released from earlier "pressures" during the final 2-1/2 months as president. He believes U.S. Jewish leaders are making "ongoing efforts to raise the issue," but added that the president would make such a move only "if the government of Israel puts a high priority on it." Hoenlein does not think, however, that if the issue is put off, a victorious Lieberman would be able to block a decision to release Pollard.

"The bottom line is that it's not going to depend on the vice president. It will depend on the president," he said.

The letter sent by the senators followed Clinton's pledge at the conclusion of the U.S.-sponsored Wye talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a few months earlier, that he would review the possibility of commuting the sentence.

The president has repeatedly been confronted by recommendations from different governmental branches not to allow Pollard to go free. It remains unclear whether Gore or Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush would be willing to over-rule such pressure in agreeing to grant clemency if elected.